Last weekend featured races on both coasts that provided valuable graded stakes earnings to several colts seeking one of the 20 starting gates for the 137th Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May. The top 20 horses in graded earnings automatically qualify for the Kentucky Derby and the purses for both races gave the winners a boost to claim one of those coveted spots.
The Grade 3, $1 million dollar Delta Downs Jackpot was gobbled up by 20-1 longshot Gourmet Dinner, who drew away in the stretch for a two-length victory over nine 2-year-old rivals. The winner covered the mile and 1/16 in 1:45.23, paying a whopping $42 for the win. Bug Juice, a speedy colt who had won two non-graded stakes at Finger Lakes Race Track, set fast early fractions but gave way to the longshot in mid-stretch.
Gourmet Dinner's sire Trippi was more of a sprinter winning several graded stakes at distances of 7-furlongs, so while he may have earned a gate in Louisville, he'll probably be a horse who will have sky high odds to win at the mile and 1/4 distance of the Derby. Gourmet Dinner, winner of four of his last five, shipped in from Calder Race Course in Miami with his regular rider, Sebastian Madrid.
Last year's Kentucky Derby winning jockey, Calvin Borel, did not fare as well as Madrid. Borel was unseated by Aces N Kings when the horse failed to negotiate the final turn and bolted. Borel suffered a broken jaw in the incident and will miss the remainder of the Churchill Downs Fall meeting. In addition to the jaw injury he also has a large laceration all the way to the bone about four inches across on his chin.
The other graded race for 2-year-old colts this weekend, the $100,000 Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes, was won by a promising colt, Premier Pegasus, above. The son of the 2000 Kentucky Derby winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, wired the field in the 7-furlong event in 1:22.78. Premier Pegasus will be one to watch over the Derby prep season as he certainly has the pedigree to handle Churchill Downs. Last year's Hollywood Prevue Stakes winner, American Lion, finished in 11th place in the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
Premier Pegasus is trained and owned by Myung Kwon Cho. He was also bred by Cho in Kentucky. He is undefeated in three starts after breaking his maiden in July at Del Mar and winning a non-graded stake at Hollywood in October.
We'll also keep an eye on the late closing, Industry Leader, who made up a few lengths in the stretch, but could not catch Premier Pegasus before the wire. It was only the Cherokee Run colt's second lifetime race, so into the virtual stable he goes as a potential contender down the line.
We'll unveil our Post Time Derby Watch List in January as road to Louisville starts to unfold over the first quarter of 2011.
Look for a Post Time preview of Saturday's Cigar Mile this Friday, the highlight race at Aqueduct, before heading to the inner track for the winter meeting.
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com.